5 Reasons You Should Work at a Start-up – And Tips For Doing So

green lighbulbThis post was originally published on The Works November 21, 2013. Zachary graduated in January 2014 and is still working full time at CustomMade.

This guest post was written by Zachary Williamson. Zack is a 5th year Comm-Media Studies Major. He recently accepted an offer from CustomMade as a Creative Associate for the Marketing Team. Zack also freelance as a photographer for the Northeastern Athletics Department.

While many people go on co-op looking to work for a large, well know brand, I encourage people to consider smaller, less established, start-ups. These kinds of companies tend to be a good fit for self-motivated people, or someone who wants to work in a fast paced environment.

For my second co-op, I was fortunate enough to be hired at CustomMade.com, a start-up that had already secured some venture capital funding, and had been a member of the marketing team during a time of incredible growth. Every co-op is a different experience, but if you want to try something less traditional, a start-up is the way to go.

1. Work at a start-up for at least one co-op.

Working to build a company is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have early in your career. Working at a smaller company means that you are making a far greater impact because you make up a significant portion of the staff. It also means that you have to be flexible, oftentimes wearing many “hats” or serving multiple roles, depending on the needs of the company. That said, you will most likely have a lot of skills to leverage and market when looking for your next co-op, considering you were both the HR and IT assistant.

2. Be ready to make mistakes, and own them when you do.

Part of working at a start-up is building something new. Depending on the field, it’s possible that a company is the first to ever attempt something at a particular scale or in that way. Being cutting edge means you’ll inevitably make mistakes, both personally and as a business; and you’ll most likely make a lot of them. Learn from and take ownership of your mistakes to avoid them in the future. But don’t let fear of making mistakes prevent you from… (see #3).

3. Take risks and force yourself to learn new skills.

One of the co-founders of CustomMade told me they would rather a project fail, than not push it far enough or try at all. Trying out new projects makes you more versatile–and versatility is one of the best skills you can bring to a start-up. Specialization is important, but don’t allow yourself to settle into a comfort zone. All co-ops should be about seeking new opportunities, but small companies in particular have more work than they have employees. Stepping up to a task, and then figuring out how to complete it, will make you that much greater of an asset to the company as a co-op, and a more appealing full time hire in the future.

4. Start-ups move quickly– very quickly.

Most start-ups have limited funds to operate, so they need to be incredibly agile and quick to try new ideas. While it’s all well and good to work out how to complete a task, many are time sensitive. Start-ups have to be quick to adjust and find a viable solution if something isn’t working. Things have to change quickly in order to conserve funds, and sometimes projects have to be abandoned in order for this to happen. This leads into my next point, that…

5. Start-ups don’t have room for egos.

Since speed is critical for a start-ups’ survival, they need to build teams of people who can quickly switch gears and go with the new flow of the company. A negative attitude won’t get you far, every challenge must be approached not with a “this won’t work attitude”, but rather a “how can I make this work, or work better” mindset.

Start-ups require a lot of work, but they can also be incredibly fun and rewarding. They force you to make incredible career developments because you have opportunities to do everything and anything. A lot of start-up culture revolves around the concept of work really hard, play really hard. If you like a new challenge every day and never want a dull moment, consider working at a start-up. It was the best decision I’ve made to kick start my career.

Zack has spent the last four years as a coxswain on NU’s Men’s Rowing Team, and is rounding out his final semester at NU as Comm-Media Studies Major, with minors in Cinema Studies & Production. He has co-oped at the New England Conservatory as a Video Production Co-op and at CustomMade as a Marketing Co-op for 16 months (he never really left). He recently accepted an offer from CustomMade as a Creative Associate for the Marketing Team. Zack also freelance as a photographer for the Northeastern Athletics Department. You can find him on the sidelines of a home game or on twitter @ZackWVisuals. (PS CustomMade is always looking for awesome people to join our team in Cambridge, MA, so feel free to reach out if you’re interested!)

Image Source: AlltopStartups.com, Do You Have a Start-up Idea? 29 Questions to Determine its Viability

Why You Should Intern At A Startup

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Entrepreneurship is everywhere at Northeastern. Bureo Skateboards, co-founded by a NU alum, just landed an awesome partnership with Patagonia. New Ground Food, creators of the Coffee Bar, met their $10,000 Kickstarter goal in less than two days. Startup fever is here to stay. In honor of Global Entrepreneurship Week, we have compiled a list of a couple of reasons you should consider interning at a startup.

Access to leadership. Startups aren’t huge bureaucratic nightmares where you sit in a cube with access to no one but your supervisor. Usually, you will meet the CEO within the first week, if not the first day. You will learn how effective leaders think and run a business, which is valuable information to have early in your career.

Plenty of responsibility. Startups don’t have the money to spend on an intern who sits in the back corner and makes copies. This is great news for you as an intern – this means you can pull a chair right up to the table and contribute to the team almost immediately.

Networking opportunities for days. Startups are known for pizza party networking nights to spark business connections. These happen all the time. All. The. Time. Getting involved in the startup world means you have every opportunity in the world to meet new people and practice your elevator pitch. Your LinkedIn profile will be thrilled.

A huge expansion of your skills. At a startup, there are almost never enough people to get a job done. That means on Monday you might be researching every music festival within a hundred miles of your office, on Tuesday you might be writing a newsletter for 1,000 people, and on Wednesday you might be Googling “what is a corporate communication plan and how do I make one?” You will grow out of necessity, learn to improvise, and nothing will faze you.

There’s no such thing as “riding out the wave” as a startup intern. You will be thrown into the deep end of the pool with no life jacket and you will learn to swim to the other end in no time. You will face challenges and grow immensely during your time there. You will learn some of the most valuable skills in your career as a startup intern.

Check out the schedule of awesome Global Entrepreneurship Week events here!

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and on Twitter @lindseygsampson.

 

Northeastern Aime Cameo Macarons!

Clockwise: Owner Kinesha in front of the Cameo Macaron truck, chocolate macarons, macaron medley, NU love at the order window

Clockwise from top left: Owner Kinesha in front of the Cameo Macaron truck, chocolate macarons, macaron medley, NU love at the order window

“Macaroon is the Italian cookie with the shredded coconut… you can say French Macaroon and get away with it or you can say Macaron [mah-kah-rōn].” And so begins my interview with Northeastern University alumna and food truck founder, Kinesha Goldson. Disenchanted with corporate life as a buyer and craving the macarons she’d grown to love while studying abroad in Paris, Goldson founded food truck Cameo Macaron in the summer of 2013.

“I just wanted everyone to have the French experience I had in Paris”. Respecting the risk, but inspired by her Parisian visit and her love for baking, she developed a checklist of things she would need to start a food truck and decided to go for it. She credits Northeastern –particularly its overall flexibility along with her co-ops for inspiring her personal and professional confidence and her ability to take risks, “Just knowing and having that experience, sometimes you try things, you don’t like it, you learn from it and you move on.” Goldson, having gone through this, was originally a Criminal Justice major and switched to Communications after her first co-op when she realized it wasn’t a good fit.

“I’m using the heck out of my communications degree” she exclaims! With an Instagram following of over 1,500, Goldson had her social media sites up and running before even buying the truck, garnering her sufficient buzz citywide before their first bite. Now, more than a year later Goldson has regulars flocking to her truck daily and is catering everything from bridal showers to baptisms.

Naturally business-minded, she details how the best ideas are based on convenience. “If somebody is going through their everyday life and they’re saying to themselves, ‘I hate this, it would be so much better if [fill in the blank]’ than you have a good idea.” To that end, her advice to future entrepreneurs: keep an idea journal and only share your ideas with people you truly trust. She also cautions new entrepreneurs to pursue the least costly idea first and then use the money made to invest in their next idea. If feasible, pay for as much as possible in cash so you can break even more quickly. Goldson’s family, friends and personal savings allowed her to fund Cameo Macaron and she acknowledges how lucky she is for not owing anyone anything.

Not surprisingly, owning a business comes with its challenges, as Goldson explains that it’s hard to find good and reliable help and she does everything from driving the truck to ordering inventory to managing the socials. “It’s so rewarding though when people walk up and are so excited. There’s so much risk involved and what keeps it going is that people get it and support you; knowing that your idea is relatable is a great feeling.”

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding”. Further touting her experience at Northeastern, Goldson explains, “It helps being around like-minded people who have that Northeastern entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude, it’s really inspiring.” Check out Cameo Macaron’s schedule and hop over for a macaron or five. I would highly recommend the pistachio and rose petal (yes, rose petal) – you’ll be just slightly more Parisian after you do.

Follow Cameo Macaron on Twitter and Instagram to get the latest updates and locations.